FRESH from his controversial move to force police to release detained top Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) executives last week and his continued stay in a plush hotel, Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko is at the centre of another storm.
by JAIROS SAUNYAMA/RICHARD CHIDZA
Mphoko has been sucked into a nasty Macheke farm wrangle, where he is accused of shielding a white commercial farmer, John Osborne, from vacating his gazetted farm to pave way for a senior Zanu PF provincial official identified as Herbert Shumbamhini.
Shumbamhini was recently pushed out of Divonia Farm in Goromonzi by President Robert Mugabe’s in-laws, including son-in-law Simba Chikore, the husband of Mugabe’s daughter Bona.
Currently on suspension as Zanu PF Mashonaland East political commissar, Shumbamhini, according to documents in our possession, has an offer letter dated January 22, 2016 and signed by Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora (REF:LLRR704), for the 337-hectare Lot 1 of Maryland Farm in Macheke.
But Osborne is refusing to leave the land with backing from Mphoko following the VP’s visit to the property on June 29 this year.
Mphoko, on July 12 this year, wrote to Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister Ambrose Mutinhiri, ordering that Osborne should remain at Maryland and that the province should look for alternative land to give to Shumbamhini.
“During a consultative stakeholders’ meeting with yourself, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture (Livestock) (Paddy Zhanda), the local chief, Chief Mangwende, and service chiefs, it became apparent that the community felt that Mr Shumbamhini had previously benefited from the land reform programme elsewhere, but failed to co-exist with the local community,” Mphoko said.
“It was also clear that the current farmer, Mr John Osborne, was rearing an impressive pedigree herd of the indigenous Mashona cattle (one of only three breeders countrywide), and it would be a great loss to the nation if he were to leave.”
Mphoko said after consultations with Mugabe, a decision had been reached that Osborne continues “uninterrupted”.
As if to confirm government policy discord, Land permanent secretary Grace Mutandiro filed an affidavit in support of Shumbamhini’s takeover of the property, indicating government would engage Osborne.
Both Mphoko and Minister of State in his office, Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, were unavailable for comment yesterday.
Contacted for comment, Mutinhiri said: “I am aware the VP visited the farm and indicated he would consult. I have not received his letter because I am on leave.”
Osborne early this year approached the High Court to stop the expropriation of his farm after a December 2015 letter cancelled out an earlier offer by government.
Shumbamhini yesterday confirmed receiving Mphoko’s letter and said he was now failing to service his debts.
“I have three wives and 15 children. How do I take care of them? I have loans amounting to more than $100 000 I had secured from a local bank and I cannot pay back because I am not operating,” he said, adding he had now applied for an eviction order against Osborne.